Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:42 PM EDT, 19 September 2012
On Tuesday, 18 September 2012, Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts announced the existence of a fourth-century fragment that alludes to Jesus being married.
The announcement contradicts the assertion which has been assiduously advanced by the Catholic Church that Jesus never married. The church based this claim on a theologian known as Clement of Alexandria, who in 200 C.E. wrote that Jesus did not marry. Therein lies the controversy with King's contentious discovery.
From a sociological standpoint, as a Jewish man living at that time and in that part of the world it is highly unlikely that Jesus would have been unmarried because marriage and childbearing were and continue to be a central component of Jewish life. In fact, it is considered a 'great mitzvah,' and 'if someone intentionally does not fulfill this mitzvah is considered analogous to a murderer.'
The idea of Jesus being married has not been problematic in Judaism or Islam in which sexuality within the context of marriage is considered healthy, natural, and pleasurable. This is not to say the same of does not exists in many Christian traditions; but Catholicism seems to have historically struggled to reconcile the concept of sexual gratification and pleasure even within the confines of marriage.
According to the Torah, or Old Testament, God stated that the purpose of marriage is to produce offspring, "be fruitful and multiply" (Bereishit 1:28) and also for companionship, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Bereishit 2:18-24)
The New Testament goes on to encourage men to marry "because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife", "it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)
In all three traditions, Jesus is acknowledged to have existed and died. However, Muslims like Christians, believe in his virgin birth by Mary; but unlike Christians, Muslims regard him as a mortal prophet sent by God who was not crucified but ascended to heaven like the prophet Elijah before him.
Published: 19 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)
An anonymous collector provided the fragment to King for authentication and it is believed to be of Egyptian or Syrian origin. According to the Harvard website, Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York, said he believed the fragment, which King has called "The Gospel of Jesus's wife," was authentic.
King first introduced her findings at the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies as evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married.
"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," King said in a statement released by Harvard.
"This new gospel doesn't prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage." (Source: Reuters)
King's analysis of the fragment is slated for publication in the Harvard Theological Review in January 2013. She has posted a draft of the paper, and images of the fragment, on the Harvard Divinity School website under the title, “New Early Christian Gospel From Egypt.”Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias
- Jesus' Wife Cited on 4th-Century Papyrus Fragment (bloomberg.com)
- Newly revealed Coptic fragment has Jesus making reference to 'my wife' (religion.blogs.cnn.com)